In my last post, I referred to the three fundamental needs all human beings have: security, connection, and meaning. Security feels like the most immediate one, since the need for survival has been hardwired into our bodies through millennia of evolution. That’s why Abraham Maslow put it at the base of his hierarchy of needs.
Leaders have a special responsibility because they have the power to provide a sense of safety for those they serve.
I’ve learned that, in communications, when any of the following show up, it means that safety is missing and might indicate the presence of the following emotions:
Flight: If you see someone trying to avoid a situation or duck a conversation, it might mean shame is at play. Perhaps, that person doesn’t want you to find out about a mistake they made or something they did.
Fight: If someone gets really defensive or combative, it may indicate guilt. That person might know that they are in the wrong and using the fight to direct our attention away from that wrong.
Freeze: When a person is frozen or unable to take any action, it might indicate that person is uncertain about the facts of the situation or about what to do.
When any of these behaviors shows up, it means that safety is missing, and that as leaders, we have an opportunity to contribute to meeting someone’s needs by trying to create a safe space for them.
When I first started meditating, I had this misconception that I could achieve a certain level of centeredness, and that once achieved, that level of centeredness would just stick.
The reality is that every moment we are drifting, which means that every moment is an opportunity to return to center.
And yet, our minds do a very good job of keeping us distracted with the constant stream of thoughts and emotions.
A quick way to return to center is to reconnect with our body. The body is an anchor that never leaves us so long as we are living and breathing. All we need to do is note our bodily sensations. No need to chase after and interpret thoughts. No need to judge emotions. All we need do is just observe what is happening in our bodies.
It is being with the present-moment reality of our bodies that we bring ourselves back.
I’ve been doing a lot of exploration, both through my mindfulness practice and through somatic work with my therapist, of the body. It is unfortunate that centuries of a mechanistic and reductivist approach to science has meant that we relate to the body as a machine. It is 0nly in the past two decades that homeopathy and ancient wisdom traditions, like yoga and tai chi, have made a resurgence to reconnect us to our bodies.
As I have written in the past and as Martha Graham was purported to have said, “The body never lies.” It is through the body that we are able to even experience the world. Our senses give us the capacity to have a felt experience of the Universe. Our emotions cause bodily experiences that cue us in on something coming up for us.
Becoming an effective and authentic leader means paying better attention to the body. It means really listening to our gut. It means really leading from the heart. It means really getting into our seat and grounding ourselves in our truth as we experience it.
How might you start listening to the body’s wisdom today?
This post has taken a while to write. And in that way in which Life provides the curriculum, I feel like it took going through the past few days to really fully appreciate the focus of this particular blog post: creating spaciousness in one’s life.
Pema Chodron does a really great job of talking about how we need to create a sense of spaciousness to see that the craziness in our minds is small compared to the natural space and balance that already exists before our thoughts, problems, and emotions fill up our mind.
What I have gotten from the past few days is that, even if spaciousness is the natural state of our minds, it does take conscious effort to return to that space. We can’t just assume that we can sit in meditation for an indefinite period of time or adopt a positive attitude towards our circumstances and expect that spaciousness will just automatically emerge.
It is in being conscious in our seeking and returning to the mind’s natural state of spaciousness that we realize that state. …
Recently, I had a conversation with my boss/mentor/friend that made a huge difference for me. I was talking through with her around my attitude towards and participation in a primary relationship in my life … about the ways in which I continually have to balance being authentic and honoring my own experience with being responsible for how I feel impacts that relationship and other relationships in my life. … In my mind, yes, it’s true that I am allowed to have and express my feelings, AND I can’t be emotionally-vomiting on people.
She asked me a good question: How do I want to use my air time?
Do I want to use my precious time in the relationship unconscious and simply reacting to the circumstances of the relationship? Or do I want to use that valuable time to be fully present and awake to and in the relationship?
Making it count doesn’t only mean honoring our own feelings and experience as human beings, which ebbs and flows like the tide. It also means diving deeper to that place of consciousness that is unchanging in the face of Life so that we can choose to bring 100% of ourselves to every moment of the relationship.
This past month has felt enormously difficult, and I feel like my reaction has been to block out anything that threatens to disrupt the semblance of Balance that I’ve managed to achieve for myself through it all. Taking an honest inventory, though, I recognize all the ways in which wanting to survive through the day led to me being and doing things that, in a better space, I would not necessarily choose to do.
We get triggered all the time. It is a function of having senses that give us stimuli and a mind that interprets that stimuli based on past experiences, our current emotional states, aspirations, meta-narratives, and other thoughts. As a result, our humanity has us react: We suddenly get upset, angry, righteous, defeated, or insulted. Then we react again, saying things we don’t mean, shutting down, or acting in ways that we might later regret.
Yet, if I accept that triggers happen all the time – rather than acting from the place of “Why is this happening to me?” like I’ve been singled out by Life to be hurt – I begin to create enough space in my life to see that not every trigger requires a reaction. Not every situation need become a battle that needs to be fought (and won). …
So my relationship with Jon came to an end just now. … And it was born anew. … And again it ended. … As I continue to contemplate the nature of impermanence and change, I realized that our experience of Love as human beings is very much shaped by the feeling of being in love. And then we begin to question the future of the relationship when that feeling disappears. Yet, because it is the nature of Life to change, our feelings rise and dissipate. The feeling eventually fades. It is like we are striking the piano key: a deep, rich note that hums for a bit but eventually fades.
The kind of Love of which the mystics wrote and sang transcends the nature of change. It is the eternal thread that strings together each bead of strongly-felt experience into the mala (meditation rosary) of Life. … It is a beautiful, haunting melody – each note the vibrancy of emotional experience, separated by the inevitable fading of that emotion.
What does it all mean, you ask? … We relate to our relationships like they don’t change, when in fact they are changing all the time. If we related to them as if all that there was was that moment, then we would develop a greater appreciation for that relationship, because in fact, it really is ending over and over and over again. When we can live in that place of respect for the changing nature of things, we begin to get a glimpse into the Love that is behind All-That-Is. …